Christopher Hager Named Finalist for Frederick Douglass Book Prize

Book Examines the Writings and Literacy of Slaves

For his recent work, Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing, Christopher Hager, associate professor of English, was named by Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition as one of three finalists for the prestigious Frederick Douglass Book Prize. The prize of $25,000 recognizes the year’s best book on slavery, resistance, and/or abolition.

In Word by Word, Hager studies the various writings of everyday slaves, including letters, diaries, and petitions by freedmen. Through them, he examines the relationship between literacy and freedom. For this research, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2009.

Christopher Hager is pictured with filmmaker Steven Spielberg in April 2014. Word by Word was a finalist for the prestigious Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.

“The emancipation of American slaves was not only a social and political revolution but also a singular moment in the history of written expression,” Hager said at the time of the grant. “Untold thousands of African Americans who had been deprived of literacy gained unprecedented access to education at the same time they achieved their freedom.”

The other finalists, selected from almost 100 entries, are Camillia Cowling for Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro and Alan Taylor for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832.

The winner will be announced this fall, following the meeting of the Douglass Prize Review Committee. The prize will be presented in January 2015. More information is available from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.